Mr Obono-Obla, a former Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution and ex-Chairman of the disbanded Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), was arraigned alongside his co-defendants at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Apo, Abuja.
The former presidential aide was arraigned along with his former Senior Assistant, Special Duties (Protocol), Aliyu Ibrahim, and the Managing Director of ABR Global Petroleum Resources Ltd, Daniel Omughele.
In August 2019, the police sealed Mr Obono-Obla’s office, in Asokoro, Abuja, before he was finally sacked about a month later.
This newspaper reported how in September 2019 the President dissolved the SPIP and directed the ICPC to further investigate the allegations of fraud and certificate forgery levelled against Mr Obono-Obla as highlighted in the anti-corruption agency’s preliminary report.
The ICPC alleged in the 10 counts read to Mr Obono-Obla and his co-defendants on Friday that the defendants, in 2018, conspired with one another, to divert N19,994,185 meant for the furnishing of SPIP offices.
It alleged that the fund received from the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), was “diverted to the personal account of Aliyu Ibrahim, using proxy companies, without furnishing the said SPIP offices as proposed to the NDIC”.
The alleged offence was said to have contravened Section 26(1)(c) and punishable under Section 19 of Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
In another count, the anti-corruption agency alleged that Mr Obono-Obla dishonestly used as genuine “a Mary Knoll College, Ogoja, General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level, May/June 1982 (GCE) Statement of Result for Ofem Okoi Ofem with candidate No: 09403/247 showing an O’Level credit (6) score for Literature in English”.
It also alleged that he used “part of the five O’Level credit requirement for you to study Law for the 1985/86 academic session in UNJOS (the University of Jos)”.
The agency alleged that Mr Obono-Obla used the result despite having “reason to believe that the document (GCE)” the basis upon which he was admitted to study Law in UNIJOS, “was forged” and he never sat for the English Literature examination for May/June 1982 GCE”.
The alleged offence was said to be contrary to sections 366 and 363 and punishable under Section 364 of the Penal Code.
In another count, the ICPC alleged that Mr Obono-Obla, around July 2018 in Abuja, “failed to attend/honour an invitation” by ICPC for an investigation, contrary to Section 28(1)(a) and (6) and punishable under section 28(10) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
Defendants plead not guilty, granted bail. The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their lawyers urged the court to grant bail to their clients on liberal terms. The prosecuting counsel, Samuel Ipinlaiye, who initially opposed the defendants’ bail application, later withdrew his objection.
He urged the court to grant them bail on conditions that would ensure they attend their trial. Ruling, the judge, Olukayode Adeniyi, granted them bail in the sum of N10milion with a surety each.
The surety to be produced by each of them must not be below the rank of director in the service of either the Federal Government, the FCT or any of their agencies, said the judge.
The judge also ordered Mr Ipinlaiye to retrieve the defendants’ passports already seized by the ICPC and hand them to the registrar of the court. He adjourned till March 17 for trial.
Mr Obono-Obla’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who told journalists after the proceedings that his client was being victimised by the government, added that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), was planning to arraign him again on Monday before another FCT High Court in Kwali on similar charges.